I am honored to share the latest in our series of guest posts on one of my favorite topics – Renovating in Italy. Today we are joined by Marta Calligaro from Homes and Villa’s Abroad who shares her guide to renovating a home in Italy.
Born in Genova and now living in London, England. Marta has worked in Italian real estate since 2006, helping foreign clients who want to buy homes in Italy.
Today she shares some of her vast knowledge with us……Over to Marta!
There are lots of great reasons to buy a property in Italy to renovate – as regular readers of this blog will know. There’s Italy’s unique charm and timeless appeal. The joy of watching your dream home take shape just as you’ve always imagined it. And also the fact it is often more affordable than buying an already-built property.
So assuming you’re ready to go ahead, here are some handy do’s and don’ts.
If you have your heart set on somewhere you have ancestral links to or know well from previous visits, fine. If not, do some research. Don’t settle for Tuscany just because it’s Italy’s best-known region. What’s important to you? Year-round sunshine? Consider southern regions such as Calabria and Sicily. Easy reach of the coast? That rules out landlocked Umbria.
There are also less well-known areas of Italy such as Abruzzo, Molise and Campania’s Cilento coast – all far more affordable yet still within easy reach of tourist hotspots such as Rome and Florence.
If you can, consider exploring various regions for a few days. You may just fall in love with a hidden gem you didn’t know about.
If you plan to rent out your Italian home, consider what locations will appeal to tourists – close access to a beach and airport, good transport links of tourist attractions, countryside views, etc.
If you can do the work yourself, great. However, some Italian architectural work – stonework and marble, for instance – may require skilled craftsmen. Your estate agent should be able to recommend reliable builders. Visit houses they have worked on to see for yourself.
For significant renovations, ask your surveyor – or an architect – to help with plans. If you will not be on-site for long periods of time, consider hiring a project manager keep an eye on things for you. (Your surveyor or architect may also do this). They can update you with dossiers, photos and videos of the work’s progress.
You may want to eventually rent out your home – or one day even sell it. If so, avoid peculiar makeovers that may not appeal to everyone. For instance, we’ve come across one house for sale in Italy where a swimming pool takes up half the kitchen. Also converting homes into smaller apartments may raise rental potential but can make them harder to sell.
Renovating yourself is obviously cheapest. But if hiring workmen, be aware of likely costs. These depend on the extent of work and the region of Italy. Budget from around €400 per sq m to anything up to €800-€900 for an extensive renovation in places such as Tuscany or Venice.
Costs can often spiral way beyond the builder’s original estimate. Sign a contract with the builders with financial penalties if the estimate – or completion deadline – is exceeded.
For internal renovations you usually have carte blanche to do what you wish. You need to inform your local authority who will issue a DIA or an SCIA permit, after which you face a wait of up to 28 days to begin work. There is only a nominal charge for these permits.
Permits for large-scale external renovations can take up to nine months to obtain and the fee can start at a few thousand euros to a five-figure sum, depending on the size of the project and the local authority.
The general rule is that you can enlarge buildings by up to 20 per cent – or by 30 per cent if knocking down a ruin to completely rebuild it. Some authorities will extend these quotas if, for instance, you own another plot of land on which you are prepared to relinquish building rights.
Permits typically last for three years and can be renewed for a further two. Do not let your initial permit expire before renewal, otherwise you will have to restart your entire application.
Submit your application only when you are completely happy with the plan. If you make significant changes once a permit has been given, you will need to reapply.
It is almost impossible to obtain an Italian real estate mortgage if you are buying a complete ruin or buying a renovation property for less than around €75,000. At present, banks will lend up to around 80 per cent of the combined cost of your property and renovation work.
The bank will usually release these funds to you at agreed stages of the renovation.
Before applying for a mortgage you will need to already have a planning permit. Occasionally, the seller may have one. If not, it is advisable to amend your purchase contract to make your offer conditional on getting planning permission and a mortgage.
When the renovation is complete, inform your local authority and obtain the relevant paperwork. And now you’re ready to enjoy your dream home in Italy!